Archive | January, 2011

Winter On Powers Lake

31 Jan



Sex With Strangers

30 Jan

So, in the interest of living in Chicago, on Friday night we went to the Steppenwolf Theater to see “Sex with Strangers.”

I have no particular skill when it comes to theater, film or television critique (For example, through five seasons of “Lost” my best contribution was, “it was good.”  In the last season, I added “it wasn’t good” from time to time.) but there are a few things to note about the Steppenwolf, and this production of Sex with Strangers in particular.

The Steppenwolf, for all its notoriety, is pretty low-key.  The decor is modest – there is almost nothing but Steppenwolf posters on the walls – and everyone just kind of hangs around in the lobby until showtime.  You can take wine into the theater as long as it is in a paper coffee cup with a plastic lid (side note: this was kind of unpleasant – it reminded me of Lisa Loeb’s and Dweezil Zappa’s super weird show on Food Network where they made things like lasagna disguised as a frosted cupcake – not making this up – the failed sensory expectation thing is very disturbing to me).  The point is, it’s nothing fancy, and this makes it comfortable.

Sex with Strangers is showing in the Upstairs Theater, which is slightly smaller than the main stage but very nice.  It has wide open amphitheater seating and, from what I could tell, the views of the stage are good from any seat.

The play itself is excellent.  Talented Stephen Louis Grush and Sally Murphy play Ethan and Olivia, two writers who meet at a writers’ cabin of sorts in Michigan.  Ethan is this animated, hipster-blogger with a New York Times Best Seller and a screenplay in the works; Olivia is a studied, aspiring novelist, slightly older than Ethan, with a smaller voice.  They sleep together and get mixed up in each other for a while.  It’s a hyper-contemporary story (Ethan’s iPhone is a central character) but it’s not annoying at all.  Grush and Murphy are believable as Ethan and Olivia and as two people who are into each other.  The dialogue is well-written – it’s complex but sparse and easy.  You’ve had these conversations (only they weren’t quite as playful or clever or smart).  You couldn’t write this but you might stumble into the scenario.

The name and promotional posters suggest something slightly more racy or cavalier than what you get.  This is a subtle story.  And lovely.     Bonus: Grush as Ethan is sexy and totally compelling.  He has these crazy tattoos, too – they are the subject of some dialogue in the play – I couldn’t tell if they were real.

Grumpelstiltskin Goes To Wisconsin

30 Jan

Are you detecting a pattern?!

Yesterday, Colleen and Keith hosted their fifth annual Chili Cook-Off at their amazing home on Powers Lake. 

This cooking competition is no joke – I mean, I couldn’t even convince losing teams to give me their recipes.  But anyway, that’s for another post.

This entire post happens before we get to Wisconsin.  As usual, I couldn’t get it together in the morning (slept in too late, hurt my foot, computer acting crazy, wasted an hour messing with my faux fur vest for no reason, nothing to wear, etc.).  And, at 2:30 p.m. when we were finally on our way to Wisconsin (I told Coll we’d be there by 2:00), I still hadn’t eaten one item of food.  At that point I was kind of a raging B.

I figured I’d run into Starbucks and get a tea with some milk on our way – a quick, temporary fix.  But we can’t find a Starbucks anywhere (how is that possible?) so Abe pulls over randomly in front of Crepes a Latte, a new cafe on Irving Park Road just east of Damen.  This is basically the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I intend to order tea and the first edible thing I see and run, but the ambiance – quaint, European-style creperie – and displays of specialty teas and seemingly fresh-baked pastries make it impossible not to slow down for a second. 

Then Josh, the manager, strikes up a conversation about the cafe – its menu and mission – and I’m really into it.  He is personable and knowledgeable (I thought he must be the owner) and graciously humored me when I asked him whether his Oregon Chai had corn syrup in it.  (What?!  OK this borders on a pathology, clearly.)  He literally read me each ingredient one by one. After skimming the menu (varied breakfast crepes, other savory and sweet crepes, an assortment of Quiches, and lots of fun coffee and tea drinks) and with Josh’s help, I order two Chai teas and two crepes – the avocado, cheddar and tomato and the brie, apple, spinach and walnut.  (No plans for how to eat these in the car on the way to Wisconsin.  Whatever.  We figured it out.)

Granted I was starving, but both crepes were very good.  The crepes themselves were paper-thin and light.  The avocado crepe had at least half an avocado in it, as well as a rich, mild cheddar and diced tomato.  The brie was rind-less and piped into the crepe, so it melted nicely over the spinach, walnuts and cinnamon-y apples (I wish the apples were fresh-cut rather than a compote, but that’s my only comment).  The brie crepe was my favorite of the two.  The crepes were accompanied by a cucumber, onion and feta side salad.  (Sweet crepes come with a macaroon.)

The Chai teas were standard – sweet and delicious.

For the remainder of the ride to Wisconsin, I drank my tea and was very pleasant (ask Abe!).    Strangely, in all its food glory, Chicago is low on independent coffee and tea and other specialty food shops.  This is exactly the kind of place Chicago needs.  Husband and wife owned, creative concept, fresh ingredients, relatively inexpensive.  The next time you’re on Irving Park Road (and especially if you are feeling upset!), go have a crepe.  After, you’ll be much nicer.

Living In Chicago

30 Jan

When Abe and I were in Paris we resolved that when we got back to Chicago we would spend some time actually living here.  This is a great City and, while we’re watching Friday Night Lights during the week and jet setting on the weekends, we’re missing it (Not that I don’t love Tim Riggins – because I do.  Seriously.). 

We asked Sunil, who is great at this sort of thing, to make us a list of things to do in Chicago.  With his permission, I have re-printed the list (almost) verbatim:

Visit all Frank Lloyd Wright residences in the Chicago-land area;

Dine at Cite for an unusual view of Chicago-land;

Visit the Chicago History Museum;

Take the architecture boat tour (or the cheaper $2 ferry between my old office and the Wrigley Building);

Eat at Spring, once a storied Chicago bathhouse;

Summer only – live jazz at the Art Institute courtyard, with booze;

Tour Cabrini Green, if one still can;

Room hop at Kingston Mines;

Stop in to the Old Town Aquarium;

Chocolate Bar at The Peninsula;

Visitors’ center at the Mercantile Exchange;

Go hear the organ before a pic at the Music Box;

Experience Chile – via the coal mine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry;

Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown, via Red Line;

Pick up a book or lecture out of the Harold Washington Library;

Find the Wilco Loft;

Take Metra to Lake Forest – stroll to the lake and picnic in Lake Bluff and check out the fancy houses;

Catch To Kill a Mockingbird at the Steppenwolf – at least join their mailing list;

Mexican Fine Arts Museum or National Museum of Mexican Art and then Bayless for dinner;

Tour the art and interior district, west of Lightology (try First Thursdays);

Elks Memorial is open to the public;

Tour the Museum of Holography, where I got my first hologram.  An old lady will turn the lights on for you – no joke.;

Learn about Scotch at Dewar’s Decision Tasting;

Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art has some decent exhibits, with a bar in the back.  Informal art lessons, as well.;

Sample every restaurant on Randolph.  Let me know the results.;

Actually enter the Anti-Cruelty Society;

Get thrown out of PJ Clarke’s.

Pretty solid list.  We’re on it.  (Favorites so far include tasting menu at Spring (now closed) and sing-along and It’s a Wonderful Life at the Music Box at Christmastime.  We love Xoco, too, of course, and the MCA.)  You?

Ride That Donkey Donkey

29 Jan

Let me explain how my obsession with Donkey Chips squares with this bit about healthy eating habits.  1. They are delicious; 2. We have a best friend in common, the Donkey Chips and I – avocado; and (most importantly) 3. They satisfy my very own algorithm for acceptable packaged foods: five ingredients or fewer (here, corn, water, corn oil, trace of lime, salt) AND all ingredients are legible (as in familiar, not font size) AND not repulsive.  (Is this an algorithm?  I don’t know.  It’s a list of instructions for knowing when to eat something.)  Cool?

(Since Rachel brought it up, I should add: Donkey Chips are local (Chicago) and lighter than other local brands I’ve tried.  Just sayin’.)

Dinner And The Post

28 Jan

I got home late tonight and had no thoughts whatsoever about dinner and no ideas for a post.  I wandered aimlessly around the kitchen eating Donkey Chips – I’m obsessed! – and finally figured dinner and the post should be the same, whatever it was going to be.  I had a bunch of yellow and orange bell peppers in the fridge for a dish I was going to make this weekend.  Or tonight, as it turns out!

This is my mom’s recipe for marinated bell peppers.  The dish is from Naples and we eat it traditionally at Christmastime (but it’s great all winter long).  I love it because it’s fresh and healthy and fairly easy to do.  It’s a beautiful dish, too.

10 bell peppers (use red, yellow or orange or any combination of those three – green bell peppers don’t work as well)

6 garlic cloves, sliced (slices should be approximately 1/4 inch thick – in this dish, the garlic isn’t meant to be eaten; it’s just for flavor)

1 cup of parsley, roughly chopped

1/2 cup basil leaves, torn (tear the basil rather than cutting it with a knife to avoid bruising – basil is delicate)

1/4 cup of olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon (fresh squeezed lemon is best – I didn’t have one tonight so I used about three tablespoons of bottled lemon juice)

Salt & pepper, to taste

Rinse bell peppers. 

Place bell peppers in the oven and broil on high for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning every five minutes or so until the skin is lightly charred on all sides.  (I put the bell peppers directly on the oven rack, which is kind of ridiculous, but oh well.  Using a baking sheet probably makes more sense.) 

In the interim, if you haven’t already, slice your garlic, chop your parsley and tear your basil. 

When bell peppers are done, immediately transfer to a large mixing bowl and cover bowl with cellophane (you can put them in a sealed plastic or paper bag, as an alternative).  Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.  The steam from the broiled peppers will loosen the skin, which makes the peppers easier to peel. 

Cut the tops off of bell peppers, peel off the skin (the skin should peel off easily) and clean out all of the seeds.  Cut bell peppers in half and then into long, thin strips, about an inch wide. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine bell pepper strips, garlic, parsley, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Mix well. 

Serve (eat!) right away if you are starving or cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour or so and up to 24 hours so the marinade soaks in.  Serve at room temp with crusty bread (I love La Brea Bakery’s wheat bread) and a piece of your favorite cheese for a light dinner.  So good.

Consider hot chocolate (real cocoa, milk) for dessert (dinner was light, after all).  Yum.  Bye – see ya!

If There’s A Hole In Your Soul

27 Jan

I love Trevor Hall’sGood Rain.”  I love my sister Fabianne’s cover of “Good Rain” even more.  So beautiful.  If there’s a hole in your soul this might fill it – for a while, anyway.

See some original music by Fabianne here!

Also, Fabi got feathers and shimmers put in her hair.  Love!  (Oh and Kelly would like me to tell you that when we were in high school, she thought of shimmers.  True story.  I remember.  Patent those ideas, kids.)

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